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[Page 410]

Chapter Sixteen:

Personalities in Bialystok


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ג    C

Bialystok Residents
Who Excelled in Various Fields of Talent

Translated by Gloria Berkenstat Freund

JULIUS ADLER – born in Bialystok, into a poor baker family. He later became one of the pioneers of better theater among the Jews. He acted in America, Argentina and other Jewish communities for many years.

ZOSHE BARAJNIN – born in Bialystok. A descendent of Meir CHAHAN. The wealthy aristocrat's son-in-law (see above [previous article]). Was a well known Polish singer.[1*]

ROZA BURSZTAJN (Pseudonym: Roza RAISA) – born in Bialystok, from a poor family. Educated here and trained in Italy. Today is a world famous opera singer in America and Italy.

YAKOV BERMAN – Choir director in the Choral Synagogue, composer and singing teacher in all of the Jewish schools over a span of 45 years. The text of his headstone:

A dear man and a warmhearted Jew, had a pleasant singing voice, composed beautiful melodies to the Jewish prayers, 45 years he served in the synagogue and was the director of the choir in the Choral Synagogue, Yakov son of Josef BERMAN, of blessed memory, died 15 Cheshvan 5692 [26 October 1931]. May his memory be blessed.

CHAYA GROBER – born in Bialystok. Today she is a well known singer of Yiddish and Hebrew songs.

MIKHAL DUNIEC – born in Bialystok. A young painter-artist. Has already had exhibitions in Bialystok, Vilna, Warsaw. Continues his studies in the Soviet Union.

NORA NEY (SONYE NAJMAN) – born in Bialystok. Today is one of the most distinguished Polish film artists.

S. SEGALI [Simon SEGAL] – a son of Maks SEGAL in Bialystok. A painter, artist, studied and worked in Berlin and there acquired a reputation as an original artist. Today he is in Paris. During the last season (January 1937) he exhibited 30 pictures in a salon there that represented the dread of the coming war. The exhibition made a strong impression. An American collector of pictures arrived and bought all of the 30 exhibits in the show for a large sum.[11]

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HENEKH PRES – Born in Bialystok. He graduated from the art school in Warsaw. He took part in art exhibitions in Bialystok and Warsaw for a number of years. He was a teacher of drawing in the Bialystoker Jewish Gymnazie [secondary school].

NAKHUM TSEMAKH – a Bialystok Hebrew teacher. Was the original founder of Habima [theater group]. He presented the first troupe here. From here he went out into the world until he settled in Eretz-Yisroel.

BEN-TZION RABINOWICZ (Pseudonym: Ben) – an artist born in Bialystok. Studied in the Vilna Art School, developed [his artistry] in Paris. He promises to have magnificent prospects.

YEHOSHAYA ROZONIECKI – born in Bialystok, studied painting in Vilna and Odessa. After that, in Berlin at the Art Academy with Professor M. NIKEL, later in Paris. Had exhibitions of his pictures in Warsaw, Bialystok, Grodno, Vilna, Lodz, Czenstochow. Had good reviews.

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ד    D

Bialystoker Who
Aquired a Reputation in Various Realms

Translated by Gloria Berkenstat Freund

PROFESSOR, DOCTOR LEON WINER. Leon WINER was born in Bialystok to the earlier mentioned Bialystoker German teacher WINER. In America, he became a great philologist, professor at Harvard University in Massachusetts. He is named Leon after his mother's father, Leibl KRINKER (RABINOWICZ).

DR. LEON ZAMENHOF. The famous author of Esperanto is a Bialystoker. He is the oldest son of Markus ZAMENHOF. He was born in Bialystok in December 1856 on Jatke Street, which now is called Zamenhof Street. He studied medicine in Warsaw, Moscow, graduated in 1884. Practiced as an oculist in Kherson, Grodno, Warsaw where he died on the 15th of April, 1917 at the age of 58.

Earlier, he was a Hovevei Zion [Lover of Zion] and, later, a Zionist. Founded the first Zionist group, “the Friends of Zion,” in Warsaw. He published a brochure in Russian about Hellenism and Jewry.

All portray him as a very refined and ideal man. Several years ago, his admirers around the world attached a marble tablet

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to the house where he was born on Jatke Street in Bialystok. In Skver, a foundation was also laid for a monument at the edge of the forest.

DR. AHRON-HERSH ZOBELMAN. Dr. Ahron-Hersh Zobelman was born and educated in Bialystok on Grachowe (Nowalipe) alley. He was known as a prodigy during his youth. He had a phenomenal memory. He did not visit any synagogue. In 1881, he entered the Paris Medical Faculty as a baccalaureate [candidate], where he studied the so-called colonial medicine and assisted Professor Sharke, to whom he delivered a work about nerve and physical illnesses. The professor predicted that he would be very important in treating the illnesses and gave him a separate ward in his hospital. Dr. Zobelman did not want to take up a private practice.

He studied the Laws of Moses. However, he was not satisfied with only medicine and was a diligent person and had a yearning to study everything and to know everything. It was also said of him that he knew 16 languages and their literature and all the disciplines of the exact sciences.

When he would come to Bialystok in the later years, he would visit me because he was also very interested in my Biblical-Talmudic research. I would be amazed when I found that he was also familiar with the area. Speaking about various attitudes in Talmud, he would recite them aloud. He wrote very many medical articles in the French and Russian trade journals. He also took part in the Russian-Jewish Encyclopedia about Talmudic medicine and about Jewish doctors. I believe, however, that his intuition, his strength in Torah was not so great.

He lived withdrawn and frugally, far from matters of the world. He did not get married. He would use his earnings to buy books. He had a large library. In 1906 he came to Petersburg. He was counting on being given a university chair of a professor by the liberation movement, but he did not receive it. He entered a university for experimental medicine and received a paid position to translate all of the medical reports from all of the world medical faculties.

In his way of life, he was typical of an old Jewish tzadek [a righteous man] and gaon [sage] in the modern sense. It can be said of him that he was religious.

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While here during the Days of Awe he would pray at the Choral Synagogue on Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur.

He was mobilized as a doctor on the battlefield of Serbia at the beginning of the First World War. At the beginning of 1915, he became ill there and went to Kiev and died there in the Jewish hospital at the age of 56. He promised his library of 10,000 volumes to scientific institutions.

MAXIM LITVINOV, or MEIR HENEKH WALACH. The now world known Foreign Minister of Soviet Russia, MAXIM LITVINOV, was born in Bialystok on the 17th of July, 1876. He is a son of the Bialystoker, MOSHE WALACH who was the brother of the Rabbi, Reb SHABTAI WALACH, the great Ruzhany Rabbi who died several years ago and a great grandson of DOVID WALACH who was the Jewish diplomat at the Russian regime in Bialystok in 1812.

MEIR HENEKH WALACH was brought up on Nowolipier (Grocower) alley with his father, who was the bookkeeper for ELIHU MALOCH, the great Jewish Bialystoker banker.

He received his upbringing in the ancient khederim [primary religious schools], beis-medrashim [houses of study or prayer] and Hasidic shtelblekh [one room prayer houses]. He received his first education in the four classes of the gymnazie [secondary school] to which one went in order to avoid military service, through this becoming a volnoopredelyayushchisya [volunteer rather than be conscripted].

At first, he entered as an employee of a manufacturing business, but he immediately entered the revolutionary movement.

He was arrested for the first time in 1896. Later, he escaped abroad and was active there in the revolutionary circles and he developed with them. Today he lives in Moscow with a wife of English nobility and a son and a daughter. He is completely estranged from the Jewish people, as this is the nature of everyone who runs across from one extreme to the other.

Dr. LEON PINES. – Bialystok had Jewish diplomatic intelligentsia who were Enlightened-Zionists, such as Dr. EPSZTAJN, Professor at the Jewish hospital, his aide, Dr. ZIMAN, Dr. SH. GUTMAN, private attorney, LEON TRAJWUSZ and the like.

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There was also a group of young intelligent Zionists found in the city then, with LEON PAPERIN at the head, who spread and deepened Zionism in Bialystok and in the area through various informational means.

At the head of the young, diplomatic intelligentsia stood Dr. LEON PINES, a nephew of the well known Hebrew writer, YEHIEL MIKHAL PINES of Ruzhany.

In 1899 Dr. LEON PINES settled in Bialystok as an oculist and opened his own independent clinic for eye illnesses here. From here he became widely known as a great oculist. Hundreds of the sick were drawn to him from the farthest places. He demonstrated wonders with his operations. In 1925 he was recognized as an honorary member by the Vilna University.

Dr. LEON PINES was active in Zionist-Hebraistic-National circles in Bialystok. He was chosen as a viborshtshik [representative] to the second Duma. In 1928 he moved to Warsaw and in his place left his son, his assistant, as an oculist.

At this opportunity it is worthwhile to mention that there was already an oculist-specialist in the period 1850-1888 in Bialystok, a certain Reb MEIR SHOYKHET (ritual slaughterer) BRUMER, to whom those with eye illnesses from the entire area and also farther places were drawn. His sanatorium was the red house near the synagogue. It was said that once the Grodner governor called him to heal his sick eyes. He did so; he did not want to take any payment, but asked that Bialystoker Jews, who were innocent but sat in prison, should be freed from the Grodner jail and the governor honored his request.

AKIVA RUBINSZTAJN, who is considered a world chess champion, is a step-son of the local Pinsker child prodigy and was raised here.


  1. See Undzer Lebn [Our Life], 1937, no. 13. Return

Translator's Footnote

  1. The Yiddish word used here for singer is in the female form, but the person is described as a son-in-law. Return


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